I dreamed about this journey for years. It was one of these crazy ideas that get in your mind and never leave you…but I finally made it! I travelled from Hamburg to Istanbul by road and it was one of the greatest travel experiences of my life. I was 21 days travelling, I have visited eight cities in seven countries (Dresden, Prague, Brno, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Sofia and Istanbul), I have paid in six different currencies, I have shared perfect moments with incredible people and I have learned five things that might be useful if you plan to travel around Europe.
On the road
I used to travel to European cities by plane, as it always looked like the easiest and fastest way, but travelling around Europe by trains and buses for three weeks made me realize how comfortable and inexpensive that is. Apart from the fact that I am not a big fan of airports, many great cities in Europe are just a few hours away and the transport normally takes you directly to the city centre.
Taking trains and buses to travel is also the best for the environment! To discover the best way how to get from one European city to the other I wuld recommend the web Rome2rio, where you can check all the options you have to go from every city in the world and plan your time and budget during your route through Europe.
Think global, stay local
Staying with locals while you travel is the perfect way to make the experience more authentic because you will be living like any other person in the city. Locals will give you insider information to discover the place and they know where the best coffee in town is. Of course, you can try Couchsurfing, but as a frustrated couchsurfer I think that Airbnb is also a great option. You can find really affordable rooms and meet amazing hosts!
Ask also to friends who know the cities you visit, or friends of friends who live there. Most of the people are proud of the city they live in and they like to show visitors around. You can also check pages like Spotted by locals to get good tips.
Europe is wonderful
Most of the times we think that we have to travel far away to get to experience something new, but Europe is such a colourful place that you don’t have to cross oceans to be surprised. In my case I visited such diverse places as the monumental Vienna and the humble Sofia, the shocking Belgrade and the exotic Istanbul and I got curious to visit more (Yes Balkans, I am looking at you!) The best thing if you want to travel in Europe for some weeks is that you can plan your own route depending on your interests, budget and time, the options are vast and just so close!
Take it easy
Travelling to European cities can be a bit overwhelming, especially if you just stay for one or two days in each one: the travel guides are full of must-see places, the list of nice cafes and restaurants is endless and the time is short. But if there is a something that distinguishes a traveller from a tourist is the check-list.
Just do what you really feel like doing, listen to your body and don’t feel guilty if you miss some main attraction. At some point all the churches and castles will look the same and you won’t enjoy the journey anymore. You can just say that you are skipping something to have a reason to come back!
Be prepared for sun and rain
That has to do with the weather and with the mood. In the same way that you should carry your sunglasses and an umbrella, just in case, be prepared for some low moments while travelling. When you travel for a long time on your own you might feel a bit gloomy some days. If it happens, just take some time as the feeling will probably go away with a shower and a nap or with a nice stroll around the city.
Just do what you enjoy to do when you are at home, read a book in bed, visit a museum or go to places where you can meet people if you feel bored. You can use Meetup or Couchsurfing to look for events and traveler meetings in the city where you are. In any case, don’t get stressed because most of the times, after the rain comes a fantastic sunny day.
What are you waiting for? Ger your backpack and jump into the next train, whenever it will take you around Europe it will be worth it! Which route would you like to travel in Europe?